Cultural Living Room

Detroit Institute of Arts

Funding Received: 2012
Detroit, MI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 6, 2012

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) will offer innovative programming in conjunction with strategic partners in order to reposition the museum as an inspiring “third space” in Midtown.

Recently, ArtPlace connected with Bradford Frost, Special Assistant for Community and Economic Development & Detroit Revitalization Fellow at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) about the DIA’s ArtPlace project, The Cultural Living Room.

ARTPLACE: What is your elevator pitch when you describe your project to people?

FROST: The Cultural Living Room is really aimed to transform the museum from a place you visit occasionally to a place you want to frequent because of its unique ability to inspire you.

By targeting our investments into the iconic Kresge Court and the museum’s front lawn, we hope to make you feel like this a place on par with your favorite coffeehouse, but even better for its unique ties to Detroit’s identity and for the meaningful exchange and unbeatable ambiance it offers our visitors.

When we were developing our proposal, I was often found sharing with my DIA colleagues, ‘Maybe I’m just a focus group of one, but I literally lived across the street from the museum for three years (before I started working here in 2011), and I had no idea I could just come hang out here. If I only knew that I could access this majestic courtyard for a nice cup of coffee or some free Wi-Fi, you would have found me here all the time.’

Truthfully, and I hope I’m not boasting here, the museum is one of the most beautiful places in all of southeast Michigan. It’s also an incredibly august institution. But those two facets can also create an imposing idea that you only go to the museum on special occasions – like on a first date or when your mother comes into town.

By investing our ArtPlace resources in two distinct spaces at the DIA, and seeing them as the key to that repositioning process—from occasional visitor to frequent user—our hope is residents will realize that the museum is here for them year-round, for both special occasions and for just grabbing coffee with a colleague.

ARTPLACE: How do you expect to increase vibrancy in the place you are working?

FROST: Honestly, it’s a very simple idea but if you just look at the current state of Kresge Court, it’s clear that it could use furniture and technology improvements. This photo was taken at a recent lunch I chose to have there. It is a truly majestic space, but it needs a jolt of inspired design. I mean, look at it. This was at our lunch hour and no one is in here!

We really need to develop the whole concept off The Cultural Living Room so that all of the elements—the programming, marketing and space improvements—work together to make the invitation to our visitors’ crystal clear: please, come—this is for you to use and enjoy.

So, vibrancy will come from greater use of the spaces and the way in which simple tools like local marketing and wayfinding – both online and on the grounds – lets visitor’s truly feel connected and encouraged to harness all the creative inspiration that is possible with the DIA’s extraordinary art collection and its majestic spaces.

Again, the museum can be an awe-inspiring force. That’s an extraordinary asset, but it can also be a hurdle for people to use its natural gathering spaces more frequently. So, by changing the texture of the lawn and the courtyard, it’ll naturally spark curiosity across the community. It’ll make these more accessible and intimate gathering spaces – both indoors and outside—made more attractive through refreshing programming and intimate marketing tools.

So, vibrancy begins with an invitation.

We want residents and people all across the region to feel invited—even desired—to join the museum more regularly. Through ArtPlace, we hope our visitors’ will leave these spaces thinking that the experience made them feeling like they can’t wait to come back. Vibrancy is ultimately then about our ability to increase the volume of visitors that come to the museum again and again. That’s The Cultural Living Room.

If we succeed, it won’t only be great for the museum, but it can also support the broader revitalization efforts underway in our neighborhood and across metro-Detroit.